‘This War Of Mine’ Hard To Play For The Right ReasonsFiled inside: Games
It’s easy as Americans these days to dismiss warzones and those that live in them.
We ‘re constantly exposed to the atrocities committed in wartime, but they’re on the other ends of oceans or we and the people we care about are not involved in these particular conflicts, leading us to simply brush the plights of these people off with little more than a Facebook comment or a a casual mention to a friend at a bar or a dinner excursion.
This War of Mine brings the supposed horrors of war home, so to speak, and not in the ways that you’re used to. Where most games set in war put you in the shoes of a soldier, the game focuses on the lives of civilians caught in a conflict, just trying to survive.
The message of the game is clear from the get-go: that war can start at any time, even on your doorstep. It’s up to you to take control of a group of civilians that have found a relatively safe shelter in a house that had been shelled previously and attempt to build a place where you can live in relative safety and comfort.
This War of Mine is split into two gameplay segments: day and night.
Snipers are perched around the city, making travel during the day dangerous and nearly impossible, so your survivors will spend their time holed up inside the house (which at the start of the game has some random materials that can be scavenged inside) building various useful workstations, cooking food, resting, dealing with sickness or injury, and really anything that deals with spending your acquired resources for any variety of tasks.
The game plays from a side cutaway view of your house. You have a limited time to choose what your available characters will engage in, and depending on your available resources, you may find yourself unable to finish, say, that second bed so multiple people can sleep without discomfort, or unable to finish building a radio so you can prepare yourself for changes in the weather or possible events related to the war effort. Other times you’ll run out of options fairly quickly, and spend more time playing guitar to try to keep the mood up, or sitting on the floor, lamenting the life you’ve lost.
At night, you’ll select a variety of tasks for your house’s occupants, and scavenge for supplies. You pick who gets to sleep, who stands guard against raiders, and who scavenges for supplies (limit of one scavenger per night). Your scavenger will travel to a location of your choosing and you’ll spend the hours rummaging for anything useful you can find. These excursions can range from quiet and lonely, to immensely stressful, I’ve found, and the number of events that can transpire will test your resolve.
You’ll encounter other groups of people in your travels, and you’ll end up having to make hard decisions about how you interact with these people at a given time. You’ll usually have clear needs at your house: food, wood for fuel to heat or cook, or spare parts to build weapons or tools. You might get lucky and find an empty house that affords you what you need, but if the house is occupied, you may have to take what you need by force.
These other people are often just like you. They have needs. Their lives have been taken from them. My first encounter was with an older couple that were generally welcoming, and didn’t mind my taking a few supplies. The next was a small group that had occupied a school. I tried to sneak through and grab a few things, but I was discovered, and had to flee.
I’ve found a soldier who began to assault a lone woman. I attempted to intervene, and my scavenger was shot and killed. Perhaps the most stressful encounter was with a group of armed scavengers in a large grocery. As soon as I arrived, I could see the three in clear view, discussing who would take what section of the store. I frantically tried to find a place to hide, but one wasn’t available, and I wasn’t willing to flee with no supplies, we needed to eat. Their leader turned around and walked right toward me, stopped for a moment, looked me up and down, and then told me there should be enough for everyone, and went about his business. They were just hungry like me.
The people you play as in the game aren’t battle-hardened veterans or action heroes, either. They’re lawyers, chefs, firefighters, everyday people. It’s easy in this kind of world to get depressed, and depression leads to many other issues. They may not sleep well, decreasing their overall effectiveness. Committing atrocities such as stealing from others or killing people might set someone on a downward spiral. Similarly, the people that live in your house become friends. They trust each other and care for each other. If someone is severely wounded, it may diminish the mood of the entire house. I’ve lost several people in scavenging mishaps, and had others follow suit simply because they became unwilling to eat, unable to cope with the loss of their lives and friends.
The preview I was able to sit down with more than our previous E3 experience with the game is fairly set: you start with the same three survivors and can only play for twelve days (I’ve never made it that far. I often lose my good scavenger and things become too difficult from there). The final game will feature significantly more randomization and will have considerably more options available.
This is a game that feels like it really means a lot to the developers. It’s more than a game of resource management and survival in a fantastic environment, it’s a commentary on living with war, on what we become when the comforts we’re so used to are removed from us and we’re left to fight just to survive. Happily, I think, the developers at 11-bit Studios have married their message with good gameplay mechanics and art for an experience that is both meaningful and compelling to play.
The game will be available on PC through Steam, as well as Games Republic, and will also have a mobile version, though details on that are much more scant. Check out a video below for a game that, I think, will be one of the more important ones to be released this year.